My Turn!
To our surprise, we weren’t sharing the track with anybody. Members of the public were shooed away and rival manufacturers had pulled down their shutters. This was an extraordinary opportunity to experience the Ring without the distraction of slow coaches and withering motorcycles. It also meant the usual photo and video ban was lifted, as you can see in our online video at europeancarweb.com

Rather than let a group of writers loose, we were split into small groups and would follow ex-racers and experienced Jaguar drivers who would set the pace. We just had to follow his lines.

This is the fun way to discover the Ring, learning from experts with the stern commands of our German guides crackling over the two-way radio like the soundtrack to an old movie.

Our of seven laps, only two were dry, and both were tainted by a comrade unable to maintain the pace. With him moved to the back of the pack, we could finally crack on, completing several kilometers before we slowed to regain our anchor.

Although we never got a full lap at high speed, our racer estimated a lap time equivalent to about 8:30” if we’d been able to string it all together. Not bad for our first time and a huge testament to both his directions and the ability of the cars.

This was even more apparent when the rain descended. There were times you couldn’t see the car or the corner in front of you, yet we kept up the pace (having swapped our slower member for a more skilled hotshoe).

Along the Antoniusbuche start/finish straight from Döttinger Höhe to Tiergarten we were seeing almost 130mph, peering through the spray to find brake lights and astounded to be doing multiple lap on hollowed ground.

During our two sessions I was able to drive the XKR and XKR-S, both of which demand considerable respect in the wet. The 510hp supercharged AJ-V8 sounds sweetest in the -S model, which was dynamically superior in all aspects. However, I was glad of the traction control and ABS testing that kept us on the black stuff.

While I’d extinguished the driver aids in the dry, I wasn’t foolish enough to trust my luck in the torrential downpours. The electronics gave you plenty of confidence and allowed us to maintain a considerable pace.

Having always wanted to drive the Ring in anger, and always wanted to climb behind the wheel of the XKR-S, my bucket list is shorter than the week before!

The Future
With new models in design, the F-Type announced and a new engine plant under construction in Port Talbot, UK, the future looks sparkly at Jaguar.

We enjoyed a fascinating lecture from Mark White, JLR’s chief technology specialist for lightweight vehicles, who went into great depth on the benefits of aluminum construction.

He explained that while cars had generally gained 22 lb per year for the past 30 years, they were also safer, stiffer and more refined than ever. However, his task was to reduce CO2 emissions in accord future legislation, aiming to eventually bring the European JLR fleet under 100g/km. The only problem was that his calculations showed cars needed to weigh 1000kg (2200 lb) to achieve this.

He cycled through several strategies to reach the goal, including smaller engines, alternative fuels, reduction of parasitic losses and weight loss.

While switching to aluminum had saved about 40% over steel, he showed how carbon reinforced plastics (CFRP) are almost 70% lighter. And every 100kg saved would equate to 62000 lb less CO2 emissions across the JLR fleet.

The future for Jaguar is in the combination of aluminum and CFRP. And having developed different techniques, the company is able to provide crash protection with aluminum extrusions, overcoming previous heat cycling and bonding issues in the process.

Aluminum is significantly more recyclable than steel, able to accept about 95% recycled material in new cars, compared to 20% in steel bodies. This helps overcome the high price of aluminum, while market volatility is avoided by partnering with smelting plants to ensure supply stability.

All these measure still mean a C/D segment compact can’t be built cost-effectively in aluminum, but don’t be surprised if the XF replacement doesn’t have a considerable amount of it.

See the video at europeancarweb.com

Save the Ring

Anybody can drive to the Nürburgring and sample the Nordschleife for a few dollars. It’s always been that way, and is what makes the circuit so enchanting – it’s the volkstrack.

However, that opportunity is under attack for several reasons, mostly concerning the development and mismanagement of the area. So if you care about the future of the world’s greatest motorsport adventure, log onto savethering.org and make a difference.

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